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The Golden Hinde

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On Christmas Day, Kathleen and I
propel a raft with plastic spoons
through the hissing fur of surf,
             stirring as we go
             an Alka-Seltzer sun.

We pass Bolinas-Stinson School,
the fire house, and Smiley's dive;
extinguished geodesic domes
             along the mesa road
             where Cream Saroyan lives.

With a telescope, my sister spies
the erstwhile chemist of Argonne
who left his post to polish glass.
             As penance, he engraves
             a glyph of hydrogen

on the blank face of every cliff
from Monterey to Inverness.
Beside us, cormorants describe
             the chop in grunts, then plunge
             through thirty feet of grease.

I try to hold my breath as long
and cheat or fail. As evening comes
we pass the final spit of land.
             Once more around the Horn
             and then we'll make for home.

Source: Poetry (December 2007)

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This poem originally appeared in the December 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

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The Golden Hinde

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  • Born in Canton, New York, Devin Johnston grew up in Winston-Salem and received his PhD from the University of Chicago. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Far-Fetched (2015), Sources (2008), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Aversions (2004), and Telepathy (2001). His prose writing includes the critical study Precipitations: Contemporary American Poetry as Occult Practice (2002) and Creaturely and Other Essays (2009). A former poetry editor for the Chicago Review from 1995-2000, Johnston co-founded and co-edits Flood Editions with Michael O’Leary.

    A lyric poet influenced by Yeats, Johnston whittles the lines of his poems, compressing imagery that is at once allusive and immediate. “While his lexicon is rich and particular, Johnston's line is severe, unadorned, and keenly cut to measure out the subtle, counter-pointed music which so strongly marks these poems,” observes poet Forrest Gander of the poems in Telepathy.

    He lives in St. Louis and teaches at Saint Louis...

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